Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Compulsory voting?

A period of opposition provides Labour members and supporters the time and the space to think through how it can set about renewing its structures, its systems and above all its ideas and policies. One area that will continue to be debated and discussed at local, regional and national levels is the need for electoral reform.

So far we have heard a good deal about PR, AV and House of Lords reform but little about any reforms to the voting process itself. One possibility is to investigate the introduction of compulsory voting. The term 'compulsory voting' is a bit of a misnomer, it really is about compulsory casting of ballots (pedantic I know but important nonetheless).

Personally I am quite attracted by the idea of making ballot casting compulsory, mainly because:

1. It can help improve turnout
2. It leaves parties free to campaign on policies, rather than focusing huge efforts on 'getting out the vote'. It can also reduce the impact of better finance campaigns and reduce the incidents of negative campaigning.
3. It can help create/enhance a sense of community, as everyone is in it together. It is also a means of reducing social exclusion where those that don't vote end up without any policies geared towards them.

I know that there are many reasons why we shouldn't make voting compulsory but I do think we need to have the debate nationally, indeed can we afford not to?

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